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19 Sept 2002 : Column 239W—continued

Agriculture Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 18 and 19 March; what the Government's stance was and how it voted on each issue discussed; and if she will make a statement. [45105]

Margaret Beckett: I represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Agriculture Council in Brussels on 18 March.

The Council agreed by qualified majority the aid arrangements to apply to tobacco production for the years 2002–04. A welcome small reduction in, and some re-orientation of, support was agreed, but the Council as a whole was unwilling to endorse a commitment to the eventual phasing out of support to this sector. The UK made clear its continued strong opposition to supporting tobacco production and abstained in the vote.

The Council unanimously agreed proposals for aid in the nut sector. I joined several other member states in noting that the measures concerned were intended to be time-limited and that we would be unwilling to endorse any extension of them.

The Council took stock of the EU Enlargement negotiations on agriculture; and on Tuesday EU Ministers met the agriculture Ministers of the applicant countries to hear their appreciation of key issues.

Spain tabled a memorandum on the possible use of insurance as a risk management tool in agriculture and reported frost damage to some of its olive groves; Germany tabled a note on the Mid Term Review of Agenda 2000 and raised concerns about the monitoring of residues in food products imported from third countries; and France drew attention to pressures on the EU cereals markets.

GM Foods

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment was in possession of relevant data when assessing T25 maize under the genetically modified foods approval procedure; and if she will make a statement. [54344]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 7 May 2002]: The application to market T25 maize was submitted to the French competent authority under Directive 90/220/EEC in 1995. Having assessed the application and being

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content that all relevant data was available, the French competent authority forwarded the application to other Member States via the Commission with a favourable opinion. ACRE considered the dossier on T25 maize in June 1996 and gave their advice. Subsequently, and following a favourable opinion from the European Commission Scientific Committee on Plants, the application was approved and consent issued by the French on behalf of the EU in August 1998.

In the light of the seed listing hearing on Chardon LL, and following an open meeting of ACRE that considered issues raised during the hearing, ACRE are in the process of drafting further advice concerning T25 maize. This advice will be completed and published during the summer.

Warm Front Initiative

Vernon Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment she has made of the number of people experiencing delays when seeking improvements to their homes under the Warm Front initiative. [56205]

Mr. Meacher: The Home Energy Efficiency Scheme for England is marketed as the Warm Front Team. To date Warm Front has assisted over 350,000 households and spent over £180 million on installing measures.

The two Scheme Managers have target times for completion work. These are set at 40 days for insulation measures, and 120 days for heating measures. The table below shows the number of households receiving either a central heating system or insulation measures and the time taken from survey to completion of work:

Waiting times between 1 June 2000 and 31 March 2002

Central heating

Total number of households in sample66,600
Waiting time less than 120 days33,100
Waiting time greater than 120 days33,500


Total number of households in sample311,200
Waiting time less than 40 days91,900
Waiting time greater than 40 days219,300

There is usually a period of 1–8 weeks between the date of actual installation and receipt of the invoice from installers.

The Scheme Managers provide monthly performance reports covering delivery against targets, customer care and heating capacity. There have been delays in the installation of measures under the scheme, but my Department is working closely with the Scheme Managers to address these problems.

Some applicants to the scheme have experienced delays due to the national shortage of gas heating engineers. To help address this problem my Department has funded training courses to provide additional qualified engineers to work under the scheme.

In addition, over 290,000 households receive assistance in 2001–02 against an original target of 228,000. This will also have impacted upon timelines, although it is not possible to quantify the affect at this time.

We will carry out a review of Warm Front during this financial year to look at how effective its delivery has been, the issues faced, solutions found, examples of best practice and future priorities.

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Public Consultation

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the public consultations undertaken by her Department since June 2001, stating in each case the (a) number of respondents and (b) percentage of those specifically consulted who responded. [60149]

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the public consultations undertaken by her Department since 8 June 2001, indicating the (a) length and (b) number of responses received in each case. [68707]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 10 June 2002]: Information on public consultation processes undertaken by DEFRA is held in the public domain and can be obtained from the DEFRA website at in the section titled "Consultation Exercises". Contact details regarding each consultation are provided. Responses to public consultations where the respondents have not asked for anonymity are also listed on this website page.

Further analysis of the responses to these processes could only be provided at a disproportionate cost.

Advertising Campaigns

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much was spent on press and advertising campaigns in 2001–02; and what the planned expenditure is for 2002–03. [60901]

Mr. Morley: I refer the honourable member to my earlier replies given to him on 26 March, Official Report, columns 828–89W, and to the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Alex Salmond) on 18 July, Official Report, column 474W.

The centralised budget allocation for DEFRA's Communications Directorate publicity group for the financial year 2002–03 is £4.1million.

The process of allocating funds within this budget for expenditure on media advertising and campaigns is structured to be flexible and responsive to changing priorities. Each project is evaluated, and a budget estimated and costed, on a case by case basis, except for those instances when UK statutes or EU directives require that press and advertising campaigns should be undertaken.


Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which breeds of sheep are defined by her Department as rare breeds. [61551]

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Margaret Beckett [holding answer 13 June 2002]: DEFRA currently uses the Rare Breeds Survival Trust Priority List for rare breeds of sheep, as defined by them under seven distinct categories. A copy of this list has been placed in the Library of the House. It is also updated and published quarterly in "The Ark", the journal of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

BSE in Sheep

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the Government's response to the recommendations of the Food Standards Agency's report on BSE and Sheep, May 2002 concerning the development of a rapid diagnostic test for BSE in sheep. [64116]

Margaret Beckett: The report by the Food Standards Agency's Core Stakeholder Group is fully consistent with existing Government policy in this respect. The development of methods and tests that can distinguish between scrapie and sheep is a key focus for research.

Indeed, DEFRA has long recognised the need for a rapid test which can reliably distinguish a "BSE-like" strain of TSE agent from the strains known to represent traditional scrapie. For example, there are two different technologies being studied at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency which show some promise in this regard.

A modified version of the Western Blot is now being used (in addition to standard Histopathology and Immunohistochemistry) for statutory testing of all clinical scrapie suspects in GB and for retrospective testing of archived case material. So far, there have been no results which would suggest a "BSE-like" strain.

Work on differential testing is not limited to the UK. DEFRA also monitors and collaborates on research developments throughout the world. The European Commission's Scientific Steering Committee recently published a strategy to apply a common protocol for testing scrapie cases for BSE across Europe.

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